Farewell, Civil Liberties

Theresa May - David Cameron - Conservative Party - Civil Liberties- Free Speech

 

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone'”David Cameron, 2015

Pick your poison.

What’s worse? A Labour government that ruins the economy and condemns millions of people to lives of hard subsistence, bleating all the while about how fair and progressive they are, or a Conservative government promising semi-competent handling of the economy but itching to trample away our precious few remaining civil liberties now that they are no longer restrained by coalition?

Britain voted for the latter on May 7 this year, and on balance this was probably the right choice in the short term. But with David Cameron back in Downing Street and Theresa May re-confirmed as Home Secretary, anyone remotely concerned about civil liberties and jealous of their existing freedoms will need to organise to stop them being steamrollered in a flurry of quick legislating while this Conservative majority government is still in its honeymoon phase.

The fact that David Cameron could utter such words as the head of government of a western country is absolutely appalling, and only reconfirms everything that this blog and many others have disliked about the current Conservative Party leadership for some time.

Gone is any sense of small-L liberalism, trusting the people to know and do what is best for themselves and their communities. And in its place comes a heavy-handed, hawkish paternalism, made all the more offensive by the patronising tone in which it seeks to assert control over our lawmaking.

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Yes, Terrorism Is A Price Worth Paying For Liberty

Civil Liberties Government Surveillance Terrorism

 

When determining how society should deal with people who have committed the most heinous crimes, one does not turn to the victims or their surviving family members for advice. And if one were to be so rash as to base Britain’s penal system on the vengeful feelings of grieving parents, spouses and children, there would be gruesome public executions every day in every town up and down the length of Britain, from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

So while we may feel every sorrow in the world for those who have been the victim of dastardly terrorist attacks, why do we give such credence to terror victims when it comes to formulating our approach to national security and civil liberties? While human compassion dictates that we offer our utmost sympathy to those who have suffered, allowing ourselves to be manipulated into making sweeping and draconian decisions based on heart-wrenching personal testimony is no way to run a country – whether we are talking about the NHS or government snooping laws.

Those in the media who report on these subjects for a living should know this best of all. And yet large swathes of the British press have spent today tacitly attacking the campaigning groups who defend our civil liberties, simply because they refuse to display the grovelling, servile fearfulness that begs government to take as many of our freedoms as they want in return for the illusion of greater safety.

The Times print edition, in an article bearing the sub-headline “outcry over campaigners’ attack on state snooping”, reports:

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This Week’s Cowardly Assault On Liberty Comes To You Courtesy Of David Cameron

David Cameron Paris Attack Charlie Hebdo 3

 

It is nearly one week since murderous Islamic extremists launched their three-day campaign of terror across Paris, striking at one of the core pillars of western democratic society: a free press exercising their fundamental right to freedom of speech. But before the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the kosher market siege have even been laid to rest, David Cameron and his government have started planning their own assault on the rights of the individual and the foundations of a free society.

Of course, David Cameron’s assault is couched in the gentle, persuasive diplomatic language of the politician. There will be no masked men clad in black, no sudden hail of gunfire and no hostages taken – unless you count the right to live our lives free from intrusive snooping from a government that believes it can keep us completely safe, if only it knows enough about us all.

The Guardian provides a good summary of the enhanced laws and powers that David Cameron and the security services want to take for themselves:

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Exploiting Charlie Hebdo To Attack Civil Liberties

 

It is a dirty yet utterly predictable paradox that the terrorist attacks in Paris, which saw so many people flock to the banner of free speech, are even now being exploited by conniving politicians to crack down on our other, equally cherished civil liberties such as the right to privacy.

Once you have seen enough television news reports and read enough commentary to confirm and reinforce your entirely appropriate horror and outrage at the terrorist atrocities in Paris this week, therefore, it is well worth taking some more time out of your schedule to watch at least some of the video above.

Attempting to start a meaningful conversation about the root causes of Islamist terrorism is, apparently, highly unseemly and inappropriate so soon after an attack. And yet those who make this claim never explain why talking about the root causes of Islamist terrorism in its immediate aftermath is opportunistic and wrong, while conveniently it happens to be the perfect time for governments to demand sweeping, draconian new powers. And yet that is exactly what we now see.

As this blog recently noted:

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Editor Willing To Publish Anything Doesn’t Think Public Deserve To Know About Government Surveillance

Only honourable men wear poppies

 

The ongoing public debate about the Snowden NSA leaks and government surveillance was effectively settled once and for all today, as former News of The World editor Andy Coulson informed the world how he would have acted had Edward Snowden approached him – rather than The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald – with his cache of classified security documents.

The Guardian reports:

The former NoW editor Andy Coulson said he would have rejected the Edward Snowden story if it had been offered to him when he was editing the newspaper, the Old Bailey has heard.

Coulson told the phone hacking trial on Tuesday he felt the news story about US National Security Agency surveillance, based upon a cache of documents leaked by the whistleblower Snowden, would have endangered lives.

Andy Coulson – known by many of his peers as the Saint of Fleet Street – distinguished himself throughout his career by his unimpeachable journalistic ethics, frequently declining to run lucrative stories picked up by other newspapers because he could not be absolutely certain that the information had been gleaned from reputable sources or that its publication would serve the public interest.

Showing the steady, high-handed professional judgement which was the hallmark of his tenure as editor of the News of the World, The Guardian reports Coulson as saying:

“It’s a topical example, Edward Snowden. If they came to me at the News of the World, I think I would have turned them down,” he said, adding that the story on sweeping surveillance by the US government had “a potential for lives to be put at risk”.

The fact that Andy Coulson decided to weigh in on this contentious issue can only add further weight and moral credibility to the government’s argument that it has the unlimited right to take any action in the name of national security without either informing or seeking the consent of the public.

Coulson’s intervention is also a tremendous setback for The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers, who only yesterday were boasting about their newly-won Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Edward Snowden NSA leaks. Indeed, the judgement and reputation of the entire Pulitzer Prize committee must surely now be called into question for conferring an award on two newspapers who so egregiously violated what is already becoming known as the ‘Coulson Doctrine’ of fastidiously weighing the public interest before publishing sensational material.

Coulson could not be reached for further comment as he is currently standing trial at the Old Bailey on charges of phone hacking and committing perjury, absurd and hurtful accusations that were probably concocted by jealous rivals who can never live up to Coulson’s exemplary standards of professional and moral conduct.